We all knew this was going to be a tough game for the Red Sox, as they were going up against Corey Kluber. The Indians ace is one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball, and he had his best stuff working on Wednesday night. Fortunately, Drew Pomeranz was up to the task and went toe-to-toe with the potential Cy Young challenger. The Red Sox southpaw gave up one fewer big hit than Kluber, and in the end that was enough to give them the win. The offense would come through late in the game and pull away, but this game was much closer than this final score would indicate. This was a pitchers duel, and Pomeranz outdueled Kluber.
If the Red Sox were going to win this game, they were certainly going to need that kind of big performance from Pomeranz. Kluber was not going to be easy to score off, and from the jump it felt like one run could decide this game. Pomeranz did a hell of a job making sure that run wasn’t going to come off him, as he kept the Indians off-balance all night long. He didn’t really utilize his cutter too much and he did allow a few walks, but his curveball was nasty and he was able to locate his fastball extremely well, particularly in the most important spots.
What’s really strange about this outing is that it felt like Pomeranz was in control for its entirety but didn’t have a single clean inning on the night. He allowed a two-out walk in the first but quickly got out of that. The second started off with an infield single, but Pomeranz turned right around and struck out the next three batters he saw. The third saw a one-out walk, but once again Pomeranz didn’t allow the runner to advance past first.
The only real issue for the southpaw came in the fourth when he hit Jay Bruce with one out in the frame. Brandon Guyer followed that up with a line-drive single, and it seemed like Cleveland might have something going. Instead, Pomeranz got a couple of strikeouts to get out of it. He allowed another one-out walk in the fifth before entering the sixth nearing 100 pitches.
With Pomeranz coming off a start in which he was forced out early due to back spasms, it was going to be interesting to see how much of a leash John Farrell was going to give his starter. The Red Sox got Joe Kelly warming fairly quickly in the sixth, and Pomeranz kicked things off by walking Edwin Encarnacion. After getting the first out of the frame on a lineout, Farrell came out and called upon Kelly. It was a tough call, but considering the injury concerns with Pomeranz, the pitch count over 100 and the fact that a right-handed hitter with big career platoon splits coming up, it was a defensible move to call upon Kelly. It turned out to work, as the righty reliever finished off the inning without a hitch.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were going up against the only pitcher in the American League with even an outside shot at challenging Chris Sale for the Cy Young award. Kluber has been incredible over the last few months, and that continued on Wednesday. He was perfect the first time through the order, and it seemed as if he had a legitimate chance at a perfect game. This is much more because Kluber was incredible and less because of the Red Sox offense. It’s hard to imagine many lineups having a shot against Kluber in this one.
That being said, the Red Sox did get one shot against the Indians ace and they did not miss their chance. In the top half of the fifth, with the Red Sox only having an infield single under their belt to that point and the score still tied at zero, Mitch Moreland stepped to the plate. Kluber tossed him a cutter up and in, but one that caught just a little too much of the zone and Moreland turned it around and launched it into the power alley. It had enough to clear the seats, and all of a sudden the Red Sox had a 1-0 lead in this pitcher’s duel. That was all Kluber would give up for the next few innings.
After Kelly finished the sixth it was still a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the seventh and it was up to the bullpen to preserve it. This was a big test for a group that has been struggling a bit lately. Kelly came back out for that seventh and got two quick outs before being pulled in favor of Addison Reed. It seemed like a strange move given that Kelly was only at 11 pitches, but the Indians were turning over their lineup and Farrell wanted his best option against the top of Cleveland’s order. Reed came on and induced a ground ball that was turned into an out thanks to an outstanding diving stop up the middle by Xander Bogaerts.
The Red Sox then came out in the top of the eighth looking for some insurance, and they got it. Kluber was still out there for Cleveland and got a couple of quick outs to start the inning. Then, it went downhill. He walked Brock Holt in a long at bat, then hit Eduardo Nuñez in the next at bat. On the pitch prior to the HBP, Nuñez nearly swung out of his shoes. To some, it appeared that Kluber hit Nuñez intentionally as retribution for the swing. That is a ludicrous theory to me, particularly with a runner on base in such a close game, but I will leave open the possibility. If it was indeed an intentional beaning, it was monumentally stupid. Mookie Betts made Kluber pay for the free baserunners by smacking a single through the left side to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. Boston would load the bases against Cleveland’s bullpen, but couldn’t capitalize and push anymore runs across.
That insurance run would loom large as Reed came back out for the Red Sox in the eighth. He’d get the first two outs of the frame, but then made a mistake to Encarnacion. That...is not advisable. The Indians slugger destroyed it way out to left field and cut the lead in half. Reed would get the final out, but it was another mistake for the righty.
Once again, the Red Sox lineup was looking for some insurance against the Cleveland bullpen, and once again they came through with it. Back-to-back singles immediately put runners on the corners for the good guys, largely thanks to some impressive baserunning from Rafael Devers, and the rookie would score on a passed ball by Cleveland. Just like that, the lead was back to two. Holt would come through with another RBI to extend the lead to three, and then Nuñez made good on his last big swing with another on which he made contact. It was good enough contact to launch it over the wall and give the Red Sox a 6-1 lead.
Though it wasn’t a save situation, Craig Kimbrel had already been warming and he came in anyway. He was able to lock things down and send Boston home with their second straight win in Cleveland.
So, after the tough loss on Monday things are back to looking up for the Red Sox. They have now won two in a row and have a chance to take the series in Cleveland with Chris Sale on the bump on Thursday. The bad news is that the Yankees also took home a win, so Boston’s lead in the division remains at 4.5. We’ll see you tomorrow night for the series finale and for Sale Day.